Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the corporation
Number of voters:
|8 Mar. 1604||ALLAN PERCY|
|WILLIAM GEE , recorder|
|c. Mar. 1614||WILLIAM TOWSE|
|29 Dec. 1620||SIR CHRISTOPHER HILDYARD|
|Sir John Hobart II*|
|15 Jan. 1624||SIR HENRY VANE|
|Sir William Alford|
|?Sir John Hotham , bt.|
|3 Mar. 1624||SIR HENRY CAREY II vice Vane, chose to sit for Carlisle|
|26 Apr. 1625||SIR JOHN HOTHAM , bt.|
|SIR WILLIAM ALFORD|
|23 Jan. 1626||SIR JOHN HOTHAM , bt.|
|SIR WILLIAM ALFORD|
|19 Feb. 1628||SIR JOHN HOTHAM , bt.|
|SIR WILLIAM ALFORD|
Site of the shrine of St. John of Beverley, a former archbishop of York, Beverley had been a national centre of pilgrimage before the Reformation, and remained the chief market for wool and agricultural produce in the East Riding thereafter, while its Cross Fair attracted merchants from London and across the north of England. Its population, estimated at about 5,000 in 1600, still almost equalled that of Hull.1 Beverley returned MPs during the reign of Edward I, but its representation lapsed after 1328. Elizabeth granted the manor to her favourite Robert Dudley†, who secured the town’s re-enfranchisement in 1563, a privilege which was confirmed by the borough’s charter of incorporation in 1573. This charter assigned the franchise to the mayor, governors (equivalent to aldermen) and burgesses. The latter were customarily defined as the 13 ‘select burgesses’, who came to assume the functions of common councillors.2
Unlike York and Hull, Beverley rarely returned townsmen to Parliament. The corporation regularly sent representatives to York and London on legal business, and would have been able to afford parliamentary expenses, but its interests rarely clashed with those of its neighbours, and the domination of the corporation by local gentry meant that it was disinclined to promote trade interests. The only measure which could have vexed the Beverlonians was a proposal from the York corporation in the early 1620s to secure a statute barring Londoners from the fairs at Beverley and Howden. However, the York MPs warned that ‘there is no way by Parliament to take away the liberty of any subject from going and merchandising where he list’, and the plan was dropped.3 In the absence of a corporation interest, several other parties claimed an electoral influence at Beverley. The Ellerkers and Alfords were returned at times when the heads of their respective families were members of the corporation. The 9th earl of Northumberland had a local base at Leckington, three miles north of the town, and his steward, Edward Fraunceys*, was returned in 1597 and 1601. The steward of the manor, (Sir) Thomas Crompton†, who collected lucrative tolls (valued at £274 p.a. in 1628) was returned in 1597. Finally, Sir John Stanhope*, farmer of former church lands within the town, had his servant Ralph Ewens† elected in 1601.4
In 1604 Northumberland, then riding high in the king’s favour, had his younger brother Allan Percy returned at Beverley. With Ewens ineligible following his appointment as under-clerk of the Parliaments, the corporation chose William Gee, who had several claims on their allegiance: the town’s recorder since 1597, he rented property near the Minster, and was brother-in-law to Sir Thomas Crompton. Both Members were dead by 1614, as was the Percy interest following the family’s involvement in the Gunpowder Plot, while Gee’s son, born in 1604, was far too young to stand. Edmund Scott, returned at the next three elections, cannot be identified: no-one of this name has been connected with the corporation or any known electoral patrons; but as he was returned during Sir John Crompton’s* tenure as manorial steward, he was presumably nominated by the latter. William Towse, a lawyer from Essex, had two possible patrons with local links: Crompton, a fellow Inner Templar, and Sir Lancelot Alford†, whose second cousin Edward Alford* (himself returned Beverley in 1593) subsequently served with Towse as MP for Colchester.5
The manor of Beverley had passed to the duchy of Cornwall by the general election of December 1620, when Sir Henry Hobart* apparently used his position as a member of Prince Charles’s Council to nominate his son Sir John Hobart II*. The corporation signified ‘our common desire to satisfy so great and noble a friend’, but disingenuously claimed that it could not make a firm offer of a seat until the writ arrived. It also warned ‘that [because] the election consists in the voices and votes of many, we dare not assure your lordship of more than what rests in our own particular power’. Disappointed at Beverley, Hobart was eventually returned at a by-election for Cambridge in March 1621. The candidate for whom the corporation saved a seat was Sir Christopher Hildyard, who owned the manor of Routh, four miles east of Beverley, and had served as a magistrate for the town’s liberty since 1604.6
In 1624 Hildyard was returned at Hedon, leaving the senior seat at Beverley open to fresh contenders. One of these was Hildyard’s neighbour Sir William Alford of Meaux Abbey, while another was Sir John Hotham. The latter presumably hoped for a nomination from Sir William Constable*, briefly tipped to succeed Crompton as steward of Beverley in December 1623.7 However, the corporation favoured the duchy of Cornwall, returning first Sir Henry Vane and then, after he elected to serve for Carlisle, Sir Henry Carey II. This sudden tractability was due to the duchy’s victory in quo warranto proceedings brought against the corporation in Easter 1623. The town thereby lost possession of assets including the market tolls, which the corporation agreed to lease back for £40 p.a. in February 1625.8
The conclusion of the quo warranto dispute freed the corporation from any electoral obligation to the duchy council at the general election of April 1625, while the new manorial steward, Sir Robert Yaxley*, was also unable to exercise any patronage, having been shipwrecked on Anglesey while en route to Ireland. Lord President Scrope, who wrote to Scarborough on Alford’s behalf at this election, may have sent a similar nomination to Beverley, and while Alford and Hotham had recently snubbed one of the town’s governors for abusing his position as a subsidy assessor, the pair were apparently returned unopposed for the remainder of the decade. Alford’s electoral influence was eventually to be undermined by the duchy’s lease of Beverley manor to the Warton family in January 1628.9
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), vi. 2-10, 34-5, 39-42, 80-83, 105-6; Hull RO, WT1.
- 2. VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), vi. 19-22, 63-5, 73-6; CPR, 1572-5, pp. 120-1.
- 3. Yorks. ERRO, BC/II/6/43-55; D. Lambourn, Reformation in English Towns ed. P. Collinson and D. Craig, 63-78; York City Archives, House Bk. 34, ff. 217v-18, 291v.
- 4. Yorks. ERRO, DDBC 19/19.
- 5. Yorks. ERRO, BC/II/5/1, ff. 7v, 9; BC/II/6/45-52; Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. iii. 22; C142/332/165; J.G. Alford, Alford Fam. Notes, 10, 16, 24.
- 6. Yorks. ERRO, BC/II/6/51, ‘common expenses’; BC/II/7/4/1, f. 17, mistakenly dated to 1604 (when Hobart was 10 years old) in VCH Yorks. (E. Riding), vi. 91-2; C181/1, f. 94.
- 7. Yorks. ERRO, DDCC/144/1, Dunbar to John Kirton; HUL, DDHA/18/12.
- 8. DCO, ‘Prince Charles in Spain’, ff. 34, 39v; Yorks. ERRO, DDBC 2/17, 19/18; BC/II/7/4/1, f. 36; E401/2445, unfol. (3 Dec. 1628).
- 9. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 41; PROB 11/155, f. 13; Scarborough Recs. 1600-40 ed. M.Y. Ashcroft (N. Yorks. Co. RO xlvii), 142; SP14/170/42; Yorks. ERRO, DDBC 19/19.